A glimpse back in time

Steubenville’s Barry Robb certainly has an appreciation of history.

In case you have any doubts, all you have to do is drive past his automobile service center at the corner of Sunset and Wilshire boulevards. For many, many years, the facility was a service station, proudly displaying the red, white and blue colors of the old Sohio brand.

A corporate acquisition meant the facility spent the last several years of its life as a gasoline station decked out in the green and gold livery of BP, but Robb has never lost his love of all things Sohio.

Even the casual observer can’t help but notice – there are vintage Sohio gasoline pumps and old signs in front of Robb’s service center, and the paint scheme of the building and the lettering across the top of the building pay tribute to a time when the brand was the dominant gasoline retailer in our area.

Knowing that Robb is very interested in preserving a part of the past, it wasn’t really a surprise when he contacted staff writer Dave Gossett a little more than a week ago and said he wanted to discus a find he had made while going through some items in his mother’s house. What he gave Dave was interesting indeed – it was a copy of a special edition published on Jan. 24, 1907, that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Herald-Star.

The timing of the discovery couldn’t have been any better, coming just before the newspaper celebrated its birthday on Friday. And while there’s no explanation for the date of the publication – the actual 100th anniversary occurred on June 7, 1906 – it offers an interesting profile of what our community looked like in the early part of the 20th century.

For example, there’s a detailed history of the newspaper to that point. “Established in 1806 as a weekly, it has never since that time missed an issue and has grown in power and influence with each succeeding year of its existence,” a headline on the front page told its readers.

The inside pages are filled with stories that offer a snapshot in time – literally, as an advertisement for the Beall and Steele Drug Co. at 416 Market St. tells us while describing the attributes of Eastman Kodaks, cameras that would make “a suitable gift to a friend of either sex.”

There’s also a profile of the McGee-Deiters Glass Co. of Brilliant, which manufactured, among other items, the ruby lantern globes used by the Pennsylvania Railroad Co. Readers were reminded that the Steubenville Coal and Mining Co. ran “one of the modern coal mines as far as machinery in the entire district.”

Changes in transportation were transforming the whole look of our area at the time, and several stories reported that officials were working to put the finishing touches on a series of electric railways that they said would offer convenient travel from the East Liverpool area to Wheeling. For example, the Tri-State Traction Co. was extending its lines from Steubenville to Follansbee and Wellsburg, with the cars crossing the Ohio River on the recently built Market Street Bridge. The Steubenville and Wheeling Traction Co., meanwhile, had just completed its new line between Steubenville and Mingo Junction and the Steubenville and East Liverpool Railway and Light Co. was looking forward to completing the few missing links that would connect Steubenville with Rochester, Pa.

The Steubenville Business College reminded area residents that well-trained young men and women were in great demand and could command annual salaries ranging between $500 and $2,500. Tuition was listed at $60 for a 10-month course that included single and double entry bookkeeping, business arithmetic, rapid calculation, business grammar and correspondence, business law, banking, voucher system, penmanship, spelling and punctuation.

Included in the section was a story about the Acme Lead Glass Works, which was the largest lamp chimney factory in the United States, and the Toronto Glass Works.

Among the owners of those operations was Joseph J. Gill, who at one time owned the Herald-Star and whose restored portrait – on loan from the Jefferson County Historical Association – hangs in the lobby of our building.

The section made for interesting reading, especially as we begin our 207th year of publication (so you don’t call, the volume number that reads 208 is accurate – you start counting with 1, not zero). That puts us in an elite category of newspapers – those that have been continuously published for more than 200 years. Changes in ownership, publication schedules and names over the years make it nearly impossible to come up with the exact number of papers that fit into that category, but everyone seems to agree that we are indeed in rare company.

Besides offering a look back in time, though, what the section that Barry Robb found illustrates is that despite all of the changes in the Tri-State Area and in technology, the mission of our newspaper in 2013 is the same as it was in 1806 or 1907 – to deliver the news of the day from downtown Steubenville to readers wherever they are.

While for much of our existence, that has meant using printed words on paper, readers are now able to access our content through our website and on their mobile devices, which means we are able to get the latest news into their hands as quickly as it happens. That spells an exciting future for our industry.

When you look at the whole package and add a little modern-day perspective to that edition of Jan. 24, 1907, you can see that the words written by Charles D. Simeral, who was the editor of the Herald-Star at the time, in his introduction are as appropriate today as they were then: “To commemorate an event in Steubenville attained by but few newspapers in the United States; to recall the struggles and adversities of our predecessors as well as the pioneers in various other vocations and to place the Steubenville of today, her industries, natural resources and commercial advantages properly before the public with a view to aiding and encouraging further advancement is the aim of this Centennial Souvenir Number of the Herald-Star.”

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is the executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)